When we (Scott Bell and Cathy Walling) were offered the opportunity to present a session on Love and Relationships at the young adult Friends “Continuing Revolution” conference at Pendle Hill in June 2018, it was easy to say, “Yes!” For years we have looked for opportunities to share Couple Enrichment with teens and young adults.
The six days of the conference included a day each on Work, Social Justice and Activism, Love and Relationships, and Spirituality. We shared the Love and Relationships day with Janaki Spickard-Keeler, a Quaker family counselor. She led the 2-1/2-hour morning session with a presentation on the science of relationships, including John Gottman’s work and Attachment Theory.
In the afternoon we used our 2-1/2 hours to focus on communication in relationships and used the Golden Threads as our outline, touching on communication (dialog), intimacy, and the creative use of disagreement during the session.
We began by briefly introducing Friends Couple Enrichment (FCE), then dove in by demonstrating a 10-minute reflective dialog on a small “pinch” we had recently experienced together. We invited the group to serve as a witnessing presence for us and afterward we welcomed discussion on the process. Questions on content came, too. We agreed to open the discussion to include content and emphasized we would never do this in a CE event as it could feel emotionally unsafe for the couple. However, in this case it felt like a way for Young Adult Friends (YAFs) to see into a long-term relationship (we were approaching our 25th wedding anniversary).
Scott ended this opening portion of the afternoon by asking the group what they noticed about dialoging. This led to a rich discussion of the speaking and listening skills involved.
We shared the modified Intimacy Checklist handout which includes 14 types of intimacies such as Emotional, Sexual, Time, Financial, and Intellectual Intimacy. It gave Young Friends an expanded sensibility of intimacy and provided content for their own opportunity to dialog. Because these Young Adult Friends were not paired off in couples, we divided into small groups of threes. This gave each person a turn in the speaker, listener, and witnessing presence roles. We allotted five minutes for each round.
Upon reflection, 2-3 people commented on how much energy it took to really listen to their speaker. Listening well enough to accurately reflect what they had heard took concentration and intention. One commented that his experience serving as a Witnessing Presence was the most profound for him thus far in the conference!
Creative use of Disagreement.
Cathy briefly shared the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse handout. She connected the antidotes to Janaki’s mention of these four destructive behaviors in the morning. This was followed by Scott sharing the handout on the 4 C’s of Creative Use of Conflict. In both cases, a rich discussion followed.
We remain so grateful for this opportunity and welcome future opportunities to share the riches of Friends Couple Enrichment with young adult communities!
–Cathy Walling and Scott Bell, Friends Couple Enrichment Leaders, Fairbanks, Alaska
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